The day after my celebration drinks with Tony on the Vegas Strip, I took a friend on a tour of the Zappos headquarters, excited to show him my future home. As we walked by Monkey Row (Zappos jargon for the place where the executives sit), I noticed that the execs' faces looked like they'd seen a ghost. We had an awkward exchange.
It was the bad feeling before a breakup.
My friend and I went out for dinner later that night. In the middle of our pastas I received a call from Alfred Lin, who between 2005 and 2010 was the CFO, COO, and chairman of Zappos.
Alfred sounded somber. Then he told me why.
After the official board meeting, the Zappos board of directors had had a second meeting on the plane back to San Francisco and decided to put any immediate plans on hold. There would be no acquisition. "They changed their minds," he said.
"They changed their minds
?" I asked.
"Yeah. I don't know what more to say," Alfred said. "I'm sorry."
"They changed their minds
?" I kept asking the same question, and Alfred kept telling me the same thing. I kept mouthing the words after I hung up the phone, but this time as a statement, not a question. "They changed . . . their minds." I repeated it as I walked back to the table, sat down, and stared into my bowl of bad spaghetti, prodding and twirling it endlessly, making perfect bites only to unravel them and start all over again.
There would be no life-changing exit, no windfall, no second home in Sicily. Worse, my company was on the rocks. Without the Zappos deal, I'd be bankrupt within six months. As the full import of how my life was about to change sank in and I drained my Chianti, something changed.
I was relieved.
On the far wall hangs a photograph—a single black-and-white eyeball looking out, cropped close, no bigger than a coaster, matted in a twenty-two-inch frame.
I'm sitting in the home of Peter Thiel above the Sunset Strip. Thiel is known for being the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, for being the first outside investor in Facebook, for his contrarian views on business, and for taking down Gawker and publicly challenging Google. But I'm not here to talk to him about any of those things.
A few minutes pass, and the assistant who showed me in returns to check on me. "Peter will be with you shortly. Anything else I can bring you, sir? More coffee?"
"Oh, no, thanks," I say. I'm embarrassed that I've chugged my entire cup. He smiles and exits.
This two-story living room would be at home in any midcentury Architectural Digest
spread. Floor-to-ceiling paneled windows open onto an infinity pool overlooking Sunset Boulevard. It's homey but still grandiose. The focal piece of the spacious room is a wet bar built into an oak-paneled gallery wall featuring artwork in cool hues: black-and-white photos, deep indigo prints, gray etchings. Among them are an inkblot, maybe a Rorschach, shaped like a crab; a large print that contains abstract circles and rods, possibly molecular geometry; and a triptych of a man standing waist-deep in what looks like icy mountain lake water.
Elsewhere in the room, starker elements are set off by soft velvet couches and armchairs. In the center of the six-inch-thick wood coffee table in front of me, a silver teardrop-shaped metallic sculpture balances defiantly on its point. Twenty-foot-high double doors—the likes of which I've only seen in cathedrals—lead into the next room. Near the door is a chess table waiting for a worthy challenger. (It won't be me.) A telescope points out a window next to a Greek bust. Everything hangs together. If the movie 'Clue' had been directed by Ray Eames, it would look like Peter Thiel's house.
A man appears on a second-story exposed walkway on the far side of the room. "Be with you in a minute," Peter Thiel says.
He waves his hand and smiles, then disappears through a door. I hear running water. Ten minutes later, he reemerges in a baseball tee, shorts, and running shoes. He descends the spiral staircase.
"Hi, I'm Peter," he says, extending his hand. "So you're here to talk about Girard's ideas."
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door—Why Everything Has Changed About How and What We Buy by Christopher Mims.